Miss Australia Crowned New Miss Universe
06/02/2004 at 08:00 AM EDT
Blue-eyed blonde Jennifer Hawkins, 20, of Australia, was named Miss Universe 2004 in a two-hour pageant broadcast live on NBC from Ecuador Tuesday night and said after being crowned: "I have a lot to learn about being Miss Universe, but I'm going to give it my all."
Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey, was named first runner-up out of 80 contestants representing their various countries.
The other finalists were Miss Puerto Rico Alba Reyes (second runner-up), Miss Paraguay Yanina Gonzalez (third runner-up), and Miss Trinidad and Tobago Danielle Jones (fourth runner-up). Reyes also was chosen Miss Photogenic, the Associated Press reports.
At a press conference following the event, the 5'11" Hawkins – a model and dancer-choreographer whose interests are surfing, wakeboarding, camping with family, reading, watching movies and going to see the Australian ballet – said she "had no idea this was going to happen to me. It was completely beyond my imagination."
Her mother, Gail, told AP from Sydney, Australia: "We're all so proud and so excited for her. I just wish I was there to give her a big cuddle. It's really hard to believe. I wonder if it's sunk in with her yet. I don't think she realizes the attention she has gotten here."
Donald Trump, 57, who co-owns the pageant with NBC, said of Hawkins: "Jennifer is the most beautiful Miss Universe I have seen in many, many years."
And while beauty pageants have long come under fire for being nothing more than a meat parade (especially the swimsuit competition), singer Gloria Estefan, 46, who entertained during the show, argued: "A beautiful woman has very great powers to convince, and we have seen many misses who have done a great job. ... The new Miss Universe should do a spectacular job helping the needy."